But he cautioned that the research is in the early stages, and the whole process needs to be studied in humans.
"First, we have to learn if adenosine plays the same role in people," she said. "In humans, it is not known if adenosine regulates the entry of T-cells into the central nervous system."
If the same findings bear out in humans, she said, the hope is to develop a drug that would degrade adenosine, prevent it from being formed, or prevent T-cells from getting into the central nervous system. She noted that the discovery holds promise for other autoimmune diseases, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
The challenge, she said, is that adenosine receptors "are everywhere in the body." So, the drug would have to be specific enough to only act on the adenosine receptors that control access of the T-cells to the central nervous system.
Even so, Richert said, "it's a potential therapeutic target that needs to be explored."
To learn more about multiple sclerosis, visit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
SOURCES: Linda Thompson, Ph.D., member, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Oklahoma City; John Richert, M.D., executive vice president, research and clinical programs, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, New York, N.Y.; June 30, 2008, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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